Papuan students tell of violence
Reporter : Steve Marshall (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
KERRY O’BRIEN, PRESENTER : Proposed new laws intended to deter asylum seekers from the troubled Indonesian province of Papua are already being tested. The new laws would see asylum seekers who arrive by boat, processed offshore and resettled in another country if they are found to be refugees. The tough new policy was announced after 42 Papuans were given temporary protection visas after arriving here in January, a decision which, you’ll recall, enraged the Indonesian Government. Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone says another group of Papuans found off the Queensland coast this week will be sent back to Papua New Guinea, their last port of call before Australia. Underlying the tension is a long-standing independence movement in Papua and claims of brutal reprisals by Indonesian troops. ABC correspondent Steve Marshall recently travelled inside Papua and he filed this exclusive report.
STEVE MARSHALL, REPORTER : The Indonesian province of Papua looks peaceful enough, but in these hills, young Papuan students are hiding. On the run, they say, from Indonesian soldiers intent on revenge.
YUSAK LOGO, UNIVERSITY STUDENT : They smashed windows and they shot two of my friends.
MELIANUS PIGAI, UNIVERSITY STUDENT : Students were captured. They were shot, cut up, sliced up. Others were arrested while selling papers. They were killed and thrown into the forest.
STEVE MARSHALL : Melianus Pigai and Yusak Logo are among hundreds of people local political activists say are in danger. Yusak Logo found sanctuary in neighbouring Papua New Guinea.
YUSAK LOGO : The Indonesian Government thinks all us students are terrorists.
STEVE MARSHALL : Student protests erupted near the capital, Jayapura, just last March. The violence evidence of the radicalision of the independence movement. For years, the focus of discontent has been the foreign-owned Freeport gold and copper mine, one of Indonesia’s biggest export earners. Papuans have long accused Freeport of environmental vandalism and complicity in human rights abuses. Five Indonesian security officers were killed in the latest unrest. According to the Brussels-based think-tank, the International Crisis Group, the Indonesian military responded with a violent crackdown. Students say they’re still in fear of their lives.
MELIANUS PIGAI, UNIVERSITY STUDENT :If they capture us we may as well be dead.
STEVE MARSHALL : We found this group in a small hut near Jayapura. Melianus Pigai recounts the disturbing story of their attempt to flee Papua by boat at night.
MELIANUS PIGAI : We boarded the boat. Then we set off and there was the navy. They chased us from behind, then the boat sank. People drowned. One was killed. He was stabbed by the military.
STEVE MARSHALL : Indonesian authorities deny chasing the boat and describe the death as accidental drowning. The students were trying to get to Australia, hoping to be granted refugee status as are the 42 Papuans who reached Australian shores in January before being granted temporary bridging visas. In response to Indonesian anger over the visas, the Australian Government has effectively slammed the door shut on any more asylum seekers. From now on, all new boat arrivals will be processed offshore. Even if they are found to be refugees, Australia plans to send them to a third country for resettlement.
MELIANUS PIGAI : I don’t think it’s right. People are frightened. They’ve been chased. Why should they go elsewhere ?
JONAH WENDA, PAPUAN ACTIVIST : We are dying in any brutal acts of Indonesia.
STEVE MARSHALL : Papuan activist Jonah Wenda says despite Australia’s change of rules, it will remain a prime destination for asylum seekers. Will it stop you sending people to Australia ?
JONAH WENDA : No, no, they will never stop us. We will continue to come to Australia. Whichever way, we will try to come to Australia. I believe they are grass roots people and some in the Parliament who will support this.
STEVE MARSHALL : For more than four decades, the Free Papuan Movement or OPM has engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Indonesian military. This is where Papua New Guinea stops and Indonesia starts and this is the one and only official border crossing post across an entire 740km border line. In late 2003 this was the scene of a shoot-out between the OPM and the Indonesian military where bullets flew back and forth across here throughout an entire day and while no shots have been fired here since then, out here in the jungle, such skirmishes still continue to this very day.This OPM northern commander has been fighting the Indonesian military for the past 38 years. Tonight, he also takes aim at the Australian Government.
JONAH WENDA : I am critical of the Australian Government, not just Australia but other Western countries, the ones who exploit Papua but pay no attention to Papuans.
STEVE MARSHALL : Young Papuans have been radicalised by what they see as a failure by Indonesia to deliver on a 4-year-old autonomy offer. Now they’re in hiding, but their struggle for a fully independent Papua shows no sign of letting up.